MMPRC’s Managing Director Overcoming the challenges in the tourism industry
As of the best in the industry, we were excited to speak with Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC)’s Managing Director Thoyyib Mohamed about how the organization overcomes challenges and what it has learned from its destination marketing social media efforts.
How has your role influenced the Maldives overall tourism sector since your appointment in November 2018?
I have focused my work in three major areas in order to achieve better growth for the sector. First is the diversification of destination marketing activities and efforts.Second is managing the working relationship with our stakeholders in the industry. Third, managing the internal functions of MMPRC and putting it in-line with good governance. In terms of destination marketing efforts, we have diversified our campaigns and activities to represent all products of the industry, which is the one-island-one-resort concept, the live boards, the guesthouses and the hotels. In terms of stakeholder relationships, we are establishing better working relationships with them through FAM trips, meetings and seminars. Our team has already commenced several networking trips and we have been visiting our products for familiarization and in terms of internal functions, we have applied several changes in order to increase efficiency and enable transparency. So these are the three areas I am focusing on right now.
In your opinion, what do you feel is the biggest driver(s) for the notable growth in Maldives tourism over the last 6 months?
The biggest factor in my opinion is the political and the economic stability of the country. The other factors is affordable travel options through budget airlines,
which have been in the rise recently. These two factors inevitably decide the stability and the growth of the industry. We also believe the diversification of marketing activities and tapping into potential
markets contributed to our growth. One of the best examples in this regard is the Indian market. We saw substantial growth in this market with our increased marketing efforts. Similarly, the ongoing media FAM trips with the use of our PR representatives in this major market is showing growth now. Challenges have been numerous. In marketing, the affordable travel options such as, the local island tourism concept while maintaining the Maldives brand positioning as a luxury destination is one itself a huge challenge for me. Moreover, the growth in capacity creates its own challenges in terms of occupancy, but we believe our marketing efforts combined with the industry stakeholders, the connectivity and the ground capacity of the airports will overcome this challenge.
What role has social media played in branding Maldives as a tropical beach holiday destination? Maldives has maintained the tropical paradise image long before the advent of social media. However, social media has become an indispensable tool for any marketing agency and we are no different. At this age of social media, traveling and photography are the two themes recurring in most social media platforms. Therefore, images and videos showing the beauty of the Maldives islands garner a lot of attention around social media platforms. We take all the advantage we can from these trends to push the image of Maldives acrossthe different social media platforms.
Funding has traditionally been a challenge for destination marketing organizations. Do you think that is going to change anytime in the future?
Since this is a government corporation, most of our funding comes from the government and are allocated through the state budget as a service to the nation. So, our activities will definitely be affected by the funding given each year. The current government has increased the budget for tourism promotion three times than last year. Therefore, it allows us to expand our activities this year. I believe the positive outcome this year will encourage the government to allocate reasonable funding for destination marketing in the coming years.
There has been a shift in which travelers are becoming more educated on their travel options and destinations are becoming more tourism-friendly. Is your competitive set changing at all?
Changing travel trends create new competition, but these are things we are equipped to handle. The tourism industry of Maldives is constantly evolving to adapt with these emerging trends. For example, experienced tourism, eco-tourism and sustainability in tourism are key areas of focus for the industry right now. So, I would like to note and thank the initiatives of individual properties and NGOs adapting these trends.
What is the approach to understanding and communicating to widely different markets around the world?
Understanding the market is always the key definitely. In order to understand, we collect data and trends in the markets and apply strategies accordingly. For that, we have hired PR agencies in all our major markets that constantly analyze their respective markets and create messages and activities that appeal to the travelers of that particular market.
MMPRC’s destination marketing activities until the end of the year seems to be a super-busy schedule. How do you plan staying focused at the forefront of the destination marketing game?
Our adaptations are the emerging trends that keep us focused and at the top of our game. We have a very small but an excellent team who work passionately to reach these goals. We research before the events, prepare marketing materials specific and measure the outcome against expectations. These are the keys for our success.
Several marketing seminars have been held across 11 atolls during the first six months of 2019. What were your key takeaways from it?
The key takeaways from the seminars was the need to create a unifying effort for destination marketing. As the local island tourism is relatively new, they need to be oriented towards the destination marketing targets. Since, most of these properties are small to medium enterprises; they lack the resources to obtain expertise in marketing. That is where we decided to step in, and we are hand in hand with these properties in their efforts.
This November, the Maldives contingent will be participating for the 35th time at the World Travel Market, London. What can we expect at this year’s WTM?
World Travel Market London has been a great platform for networking between Maldives and the UK market. This year we will introduce a new component that emphasizes our commitment to environment friendly tourism and create awareness in this regard. It is going to be surprise and a very interesting project. We will be sharing more details at the Maldives Marketers Forum. We will also evaluate the feedback and if they do not like it, we will not engage it. As I have mentioned earlier, it istheir platform and we are just facilitators. However, we have this idea of bringing in something very special in awareness for the environment and sustainable tourism. As you have mentioned, for 35 years, we have participated stand-alone and we should be making a difference now. We should let the media talk about the Maldives. We should let the travel trade partners from Europe come in and say “Oh! you’re having a different concept”. Last year there were about 169 participants from 65 companies, we are expecting more participants this year.
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